NASA opens Int'l Space Station for private travel, at hefty price

NASA says you’re now welcome aboard the International Space Station – for $58 million

The International Space Station in orbit in 2018

As part of that initiative, NASA will also begin allowing for private astronaut missions to the space station, the organization announced Friday.

Price tag? Tens of millions of dollars for a round trip ticket and $35,000 a night. A "mission", lasting no more than 30 days, will reportedly cost over $50 million. As many as a dozen private astronauts could visit the ISS per year, NASA said.

It laid out a five-step red tape-combatting plan to make its dream a revenue-generating reality, including developing commercial destinations on the ISS, studying space manufacturing and regenerative medicine, and establishing minimum viable needs for long-term commercial operations in long-term orbit.

Neither Dragon nor Starliner are ready. The first mission could be as early as 2020.

That will run about $35 000 per night per astronaut, said DeWit. "What we want to do is leverage the station and try to enable others to turn a business model. while we have the infrastructure of the space station".

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Gatens then added, "Private astronauts from other countries can fly through a U.S. entity". They will go on privately funded, dedicated spaceflights that will use a United States spacecraft that will be developed in the future.

Others followed in his footsteps, the last being Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte in 2009.

Since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has flown astronauts to the space station aboard Russian rockets. In addition to the approximately 150 professional astronauts, there have been seven visits by space tourists since 2001, most recently in 2009.

There are usually three to six crew members on the ISS at any given time.

"The two companies right now that can do it are Boeing and SpaceX", he added. This is a pretty big change for NASA, which has traditionally been against commercializing the station.

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It is to be noted that the space station "ISS" does not exclusively belongs to NASA or the US but by four other countries - Russia, the European Partner, Japan and Canada - who are owners of their respective parts of ISS.

Fibre optic cables, for example, are of extraordinary quality when manufactured in microgravity.

While the plan seemingly puts space within reach of private citizens and businesses, the current pricing scheme is eye-wateringly expensive.

NASA says it will support private mission with up to 5 per cent of its annual allocation for crew resources and cargo, which includes up to 90 hours of crew time and 175 kg of cargo.

One issue is that NASA has been asked by the Trump administration to return humans to the moon in the 2020s and establish a permanent base there - but the government has yet to grant the agency enough money to achieve that herculean task.

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